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The power of perception: how dressage appears to the non-horsey world *H&H Plus*

Does dressage have a perception issue? Alice Collins investigates whether, and why, the sport is so often misunderstood

24 August 2019, Netherlands, Rotterdam: European championship, equestrian sport, dressage, Grand Prix Freestyle (freestyle): The rider Therese Nilshagen from Sweden on the horse Dante Weltino rides in the parcours. Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa

TYPE “dressage” into Google and the top two questions that pop up are “What is the point of dressage?” and “Is dressage cruel to the horse?”. Google suggestions reveal what users are searching for, so does the sport have a perception issue?

One of dressage’s enduring problems is that the better it is done, the easier it looks. Not only is it less digestible than its sister Olympic disciplines of showjumping and eventing, but watching the best dressage horses in the world, it would be easy to assume – mistakenly – that dressage is plain easy.

Anyone who’s ever ridden knows that isn’t true. Maybe bridging the gap between reality and perception is all that’s required to drive engagement and popularity.

This feature is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (1 April, 2021)

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